The Chicago Bears 2019 offseason may not feature the sheer massive amounts of big moves the 2018 version did. That said, its importance can’t be understated. GM Ryan Pace now knows for certain that he has a possible Super Bowl roster on his hands. If he can make just a few more good moves, they could be primed for a run.
That isn’t going to be easy. The Bears have a lot of things to do before the regular season begins in September. They have 13 in-house free agents to deal with including two current starters. They have some possible cuts to make as the roster continues to shuffle. Last but certainly not least, they have to figure out a way to put together a productive draft without 1st or 2nd round picks.
Can it be done? Of course. It will just take hard work and a little luck to pull off. Pace needs to manage the resources he has carefully. To illustrate how it could go, here is a full breakdown of the entire offseason including the draft. Moves the Bears make or don’t make and why.
Bryan Witzmann (OG) – 2-year deal for $1 million per year
There’s a strong possibility Witzmann could garner some serious attention in free agency but his connection to Matt Nagy could give the Bears a chance to keep him as their primary backup at guard. He played really well during his extended stint as a starter.
Rashaad Coward (OT) – Exclusive RFA tender ($645,000)
The former defensive lineman made a bold career move by switching to offensive tackle the previous offseason. His performance in the preseason actually didn’t look too bad. He’s become a bit of a pet project worth keeping around.
Ben Braunecker (TE) – 1-year deal for $720,000
The new system seemed to get a bit more out of Braunecker than previous ones and he has some solid versatility that could serve as good depth behind Trey Burton.
Zach Miller (TE) – 1-year deal for $805,000
Will he ever play again? Only time will tell. Miller’s value though at this point is his connection with Mitch Trubisky. His ability to communicate with the young quarterback is unmatched by anybody else on the roster.
Isaiah Irving (OLB) – Exclusive RFA tender ($645,000)
Irving has proven himself to be a decent #4 guy as the outside linebacker position. He’ll never be a starter but he has the ability to produce 2-3 decent pass rushes every week with the occasional sack.
Roy Robertson-Harris (DE) – Exclusive RFA tender ($645,000)
If he were a true free agent, the odds of the Bears keeping Robertson-Harris would be difficult. Thankfully they have the ERFA tender to buy some time until they have a bit more wiggle room to give him the money he’s looking for.
Bryce Callahan (CB) – 3-year deal for $15 million (Year 1 is $2 million base guaranteed)
The injury history is a definite concern but when he’s on the field, Callahan is one of the best slot cornerbacks in the NFL. The Bears should be able to keep him at a reasonable price with some built-in protections against further health issues.
DeAndre Houston-Carson (S) – 1-year deal for $800,000
A special teams stalwart who really showed progress as a defender during the preseason for the Bears. He’s worth keeping around another year to see if he can develop further on both ends.
Pat O’Donnell (P) – 1-year deal for $1.75 million
At this point, it’s likely O’Donnell has become the best he’ll ever be. That is a decent punter who has his good and bad moments. The Bears give him a minor pay raise but maintain their long-term flexibility to find his inevitable replacement.
Patrick Scales (LS) – 1-year deal for $720,000
He’s no Patrick Mannelly but Scales has proven he’s at least worth keeping around until the Bears can find somebody better.
Kyle Long (OG) – pay cut drops salary from $10 million per year to $8 million
Long is under no obligation to take a pay cut. Still, he’s the sort of team play who understands the situation at hand. He hasn’t played a full season in years and $8 million per year isn’t a huge difference from $10 million given his still considerable value.
Remaining salary cap: $4.62 million
Dion Sims (TE) – $6 million cap relief
It’s no secret that Sims will be gone this year. He contributed almost nothing to the 2018 efforts and his contract has become a burden at this point. The Bears need salary cap relief from somewhere and his deal is the most obvious one to remove.
Sam Acho (OLB) – $2.125 million cap relief
The longtime veteran has given the Bears some good years as both a solid backup pass rusher and a locker room leader. Still, his injury last season and the growing youth movement make it a prudent decision to part ways.
Cody Parkey (K) – Post-June 1st designation
It’s only a matter of time before Parkey is gone. By waiting until a post-June 1st cut, the Bears avoid any sort of cap hit. They don’t gain anything, but it’s certainly better than the alternative. This allows them to at least move forward.
Remaining salary cap: $12.74 million
Jordan Howard to New York Jets for a 3rd round pick ($2 million cap savings)
It’s not a scenario a lot of people are happy about, but it’s something that can’t be ignored. Jorda Howard has been a workhorse for the Bears since being drafted in 2016. However, his fit in the new system under Nagy (or lack thereof) was obvious during considerable stretches of last season. He was still a strong runner, but the lacking versatility was exposed too often.
The Bears decide to bid farewell, shipping him off to the running back-needy Jets where he’ll reunite with former offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains. New York has two 3rd round picks at their disposal, so this is a deal they can feel comfortable making.
Remaining salary cap: $14.74 million
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S) – 3-year deal for $18 million ($7.25 million guaranteed)
He might not be the best safety on the market, but this is still a 26-year old former Pro Bowler who has plenty of time to regain his old form. Clinton-Dix struggled the past two years as upheaval in Green Bay and the loss of his defensive coordinator fed into a career regression that eventually saw him get traded to Washington.
Expectations are he won’t return there, so why would the Bears grab him? A few key reasons. Chuck Pagano is a defensive backs specialist. He does great work with them, especially safeties. Eddie Jackson is former teammates with Clinton-Dix, so the two know each other. Lastly, it would give him a chance to seek vengeance on his former team.
Clinton-Dix has questions about his tackling prowess, but he also has 11 interceptions the past three years.
Markus Golden (EDGE) – 1-year deal for $3 million ($1 million guaranteed)
The loss of Aaron Lynch will compel the Bears to find a #3 pass rusher behind Khalil Mack and Leonard Floyd. This move for Golden could end up paying huge dividends. Back in 2016, the former Arizona Cardinals had 12.5 sacks. However, he tore his ACL in 2017 and then last year the team switched to a 4-3 defense. A system he simply doesn’t fit well.
A one-year deal in Chicago allows him a chance to drive his price back up for 2020 while giving the Bears defense a third pass rusher who played like a Pro Bowler not too long ago.
Remaining salary cap: $7.74 million
3rd round – David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State
David Montgomery was a star at Iowa State. He was the engine that drove their offensive, taking on heavy workloads every week and showing the durability to handle it. He has vision, quickness, acceleration, and ability to break tackles. Most importantly he has plenty of proven experience as a pass catcher out of the backfield.
3rd round (via NYJ) – Chris Lindstrom, OG, Boston College
Anybody who watched the Senior Bowl had to have noticed this young man. Lindstrom was one of the best guards on the field in both practices and the game. Not only is he a good athlete who can pull and move in space, but he’s also got that trademark Boston College toughness and a bit of a nasty streak about him. That will appeal to the Bears in several ways. Given the uncertain future of Kyle Long, this is a prudent move long-term.
4th round – Kendall Sheffield, CB, Ohio State
If there’s one truth about Ohio State, they sure know how to find athletic cornerbacks. Sheffield is no exception. Not only he is a smooth operator in space, he’s plenty fast. He can stick with wide receivers all the way down the field and doesn’t shy away from playing physical coverage. He does have size concerns at 5’11, which drops him to this spot.
5th round – Drew Sample, TE, Washington
The Bears are consistent about the types of players they target. They love guys with the temperament of tireless workers. They want to get after it on and off the field. Sample is that sort of guy. He operates with a single-minded approach. He’s a tough blocker, especially in the ground game but has some hidden potential as a pass catcher with his 6’5 size and speed.
7th round – Shareef Miller, EDGE, Penn State
Miller endured some tough times at Penn State including the tragic death of a close friend. He overcame that trauma to produce a solid college career including 7.5 sacks and 15 tackles for loss during his final season. He has plenty of size to play edge in the NFL with more bend and quickness than he gets credit for.
7th round (via PHI) – Terry McLaurin, WR, Ohio State
On the surface, there is nothing overly remarkable about McLaurin. He’s 6’1 and doesn’t have blazing speed. He never topped 800 yards in college. So what makes him appealing. He’s a grinder. He caught 11 touchdowns as a senior and was a consistent standout on special teams. Coaches and teammates swear by his outstanding character and leadership.
Undrafted signing – Cole Tracy, K, LSU
A lot of people are convinced that Tracy will be drafted. It’s certainly possible, but his talent says otherwise. Nothing special stands out about him. He doesn’t have a booming leg or great size. His biggest attributes accuracy and seemingly unshakeable confidence. He’ll be a priority free agent, and the Bears with their wide open competition will appeal to him.